Doing Your Own Research:
Writing Research Papers on the New Testament
New Testament Story: An Introduction by David L. Barr (Fourth Edition, Wadsworth: 2009)]
Probably the chief value of a research paper in an introductory
course is to help you learn your way around the appropriate sections of the
library and the Internet, discovering the specialized resources available and
how to use them. This section will provide a brief overview of those resources
and suggestions on how to get started on research. An electronic version of
this appendix is posted on my web site, where all the links listed below are
The first task is to find a suitable topic for
research—that is, (1) a topic you are interested in, (2) one on which resources
are available, and (3) one that is manageable in the time available before the
due date. The resources sections at the ends of the chapters list a few
potential topics; other topics will surely occur to you as you read the New
Once you have chosen a topic, the next step is to get an
overview of it so that you will have a perspective from which you can pursue
your own inquiry. Perhaps the discussion in class or in this text has already
provided you sufficient perspective, but do not neglect the dictionaries and
encyclopedias that are available. These reference works will usually identify
what the issues are and provide a basic beginning bibliography.
The most comprehensive dictionary
available is the six-volume Anchor Bible
Dictionary (Freedman, 1992). However, the older InterpreterÕs Dictionary of the Bible (Buttrick, 1962 and 1976) is
still useful. One-volume dictionaries are less valuable, but three of the best
are the HarperÕs Bible Dictionary
(Achtemeier, 1996), Eerdmans Dictionary
of the Bible (Freedman et al., 2000), and the New Bible Dictionary (Wood, 1996). The newer edition of The International Standard Bible
Encyclopedia (Bromiley, 1988) is also useful.
Consulting a one-volume commentary
can be helpful in getting an overview of a particular biblical writing or a
thumbnail sketch of a particular passage. Four quite different works, each
excellent in its own way, are available:
Bible Commentary (Mays, 1998; produced in conjunction with the Society of
Biblical Literature, the major professional association of biblical scholars)
- The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Brown et
al., 1990; the work of Roman Catholic scholars)
- The International Bible
Commentary (Bruce, 1986; a conservative, evangelical work)
WomenÕs Bible Commentary (Newsom and Ringe, 1992; focusing especially on
issues of concern to women)
Two reference sets in related areas are The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Hornblower and Spawforth 1996),
which contains fine introductions to Greek and Roman antiquity; and Encyclopedia Judaica, 22 volumes, 2007;
also available online.
Your next task is to find the relevant scholarly literature on
your subject. The small bibliographies in the dictionaries reference only the
most important works, but each of these works will have its own bibliography of
earlier works. The lists of topics at the end of each chapter in this book
provide several suggestions, usually in the order they might be most useful. To
find more recent work, you will need to use the scholarly indexes that are
available in book form, on CD ROM, and on the Internet.
The basic journal index for all
aspects of religion studies is Religion
Index (also known as ATLA Religion Database). It is a comprehensive
reference database, containing more than 1 million citations from over 1,400
international journal titles and 14,000 multiauthor works and book reviews
related to religious studies from 1949 to the present. Available in book form,
on CD-ROM, and on-line through subscription (possibly through your library), it
is produced by the American Theological Library Association (information at http://www.atla.com).
Two more-technical bibliographic
guides also treat New Testament topics: the annual guide to the ancient world, LÕAnne philologique, especially in
section 1 (Histoire Littraire, and its subdivision Littrature judo‑chrtienne)
and section 5 (Histoire, and its subdivision, Histoire religieuse et
mythologie). It covers works in English, French, and German. More
comprehensive, but not as widely available, is Elenchus of Biblia, a topical index to over 1,000 journals,
published in Rome by the Biblical Institute Press.
Another strategy for finding recent
work, especially for influential works, is to find who is citing these works in
their footnotes. This can be done through the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. This work indexes articles and
books according to the sources they cite. This too is available in electronic
form; check with your librarian.
Another very valuable reference work
is New Testament Abstracts, which
provides short abstracts of articles from most of the important journals that
deal with the New Testament. These abstracts can be very useful in deciding
whether you need to get the article, should the article not be readily available
in your library. This work also contains notices and abstracts of new books.
The arrangement by biblical writing rather than by topic, makes it difficulty
to use, though there are periodic indexes. There are three issues per year,
with the third issue containing an index by scripture passage and author. It is
now available on CD-ROM and online (back to 1985), though with a limited search
One other very useful work is
available in both print and electronic form, Religious and Theological Abstracts. It too has the major benefit
of including short abstracts of the articles indexed. The on-line version
allows you to do a limited demonstration search (http://www.rtabst.org/).
A wealth of information is available
on the Internet, but also an ample supply of biased and erroneous information.
For general guidelines for evaluating information from the Internet, see http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/
One way to find reliable information
is to use the services of a New Testament scholar. The best such service is
provided by Mark Goodacre at his site, http://ntgateway.com.
As the name suggests, this is an index to other sites and resources, including
a wealth of on-line articles and books. Also of great value is the site of
Torrey Seland at http://www.torreys.org/bible/.
Finally, the University of Pennsylvania maintains a rather full listing of
sites for the study of Judaism and Christianity (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/resources.html).
For information about the
Greco-Roman world there are two very useful sites:
Diotima provides information for the study of women and gender in
the ancient world (http://www.stoa.org/diotima/
The Perseus project attempts to make a
wide range of resource material available on the Web, including texts, art
works, and archaeological information (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu).
Many general and Catholic resources
are indexed at:
You can find many ancient writings on line, perhaps the best
You can find a broad selection of early Jewish writings at:
The general format for citing
material on the World Wide Web is similar to that for print citations, and the
general principle is the same: give the reader enough information to find the
original. If you know the author, list the item by authorÕs name, last name
first, followed by the full title of the item in quotation marks. If the item
is part of a larger work, give the name of the larger work in italics, followed
by any version or file number and the date of the documentÕs creation or last
revision. Next list the protocol (for example, http://) and the full URL,
followed by the date of access in parentheses. For example:
Sanders, E.P. ŅThe Question of Uniqueness
in the Teaching of Jesus,Ó 1990. http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/uniqueness_sanders.pdf
(September 28, 2007).
ŅAncient Olympic Events.Ó The Ancient Olympics. February 21, 1997.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/sports.html (June 19, 2001).
More elaborate instructions for citing both print and Internet
publications can be found at these sites:
In addition to using your own
library catalog, you can find the catalogs of most major research libraries now
available on-line. These catalogs are very useful for discovering all that has
been published on a specific topic; you can virtually browse the shelves by
searching for a call number of a book on your topic. See the comprehensive listing
(Choose a state, then scroll down to academic libraries.)
There are a number of on-line
discussion groups devoted to New Testament topics; most have archives of past
discussion. You can find their addresses, rules for subscribing, and how to
search their archives at:
Among the more active and
interesting groups are:
Synoptic-L is an email conference for the discussion of the
Corpus Paulinum is a moderated
list for discussion of Paul.
CrossTalk (XTalk) focuses its
discussion on the historical Jesus and early Christian origins
Ioudaios-L is a moderated group
for the discussion of Judaism in the Greco-Roman era.
GThomas E-group is devoted to
the scholarly discussion of the Gospel of Thomas.
Blogs on biblical and related topics are multiplying (and disappearing); two
bloggers attempt to keep an up-to-date list:
The Biblical Journals
The more important journals
for the study of the New Testament include these:
of Biblical Literature is the professional journal of the Society of
Biblical Literature and covers all aspects of biblical study. It is available
both in print and online ; see at http://www.sbl-site.org/Publications.
New Testament Studies is
the professional journal of the Studiorium Novi Testamentum Societas, based in
The Catholic Biblical
Quarterly is the professional journal of the Catholic Biblical Association.
published by Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and deals with all aspects
of biblical literature. Issues often focus on a specific problem or kind of
Novum Testamentum is a
New Testament journal published by E. J. Brill, Leiden. [NovT]
Semeia was an
experimental journal devoted to newer methods of study, especially literary and
structuralist studies of biblical literature. Issues were devoted to specific
themes or methods. It is now a book series, but the first 91 issues are
available, some online at:
Journal for the Study of the
Historical Jesus is published by Sage publications and available
electronically at http://jshj.sagepub.com;
check with your library for access.
Biblical Interpretation: A
Journal of Contemporary Approaches is devoted to newer methods of study and
published by Brill. It is available in both hardcopy and electronically (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/bii).
Biblical Theology Bulletin
is probably the best source today for articles on the social analysis of
biblical writings and culture, many from an anthropological approach. [BTB]
Harvard Theological Review,
despite its name, covers all aspects of the study of religion, including
historical, archaeological, and literary approaches. [HTR]
Academy of Religion Journal is the professional journal in general religion
For an extensive list of relevant
In addition, journals focusing on
the study of Judaism and on classical antiquity often cover topics important
for the study of the New Testament. Some of the more important ones are listed
Association, Transactions and Proceedings, is a major journal for the study
of classical Greece and Rome. [TAPA]
und Niedergang der Rmischen Welt is
published in Germany but contains many English articles. It specializes in
major treatments of specific themes. [ANRW]
Other journals include Antiquity; Classical Journal; Classical
Quarterly; Classical World; Gnomon; Greece and Rome; Greek, Roman and Byzantine
Studies; Hermes; Isis; Journal of Roman Studies; and Yale Classical Studies.
The Hebrew Union Annual,
published by the Hebrew Union College, deals with all aspects of the study of
Jewish Quarterly Review; Journal for the Study of Judaism; Judaism: A
Quarterly; and Journal of Jewish Studies are all useful references.
The sources for studying Rabbinic Judaism are vast, complex,
and obscure. The most accessible English introduction is Neusner, 1995. Strack
and Stemberger, 1996, is more advanced. Also see Safrai, 1987.
The earliest literature is the Mishnah, published from earlier oral
tradition about 200 ce. It
consists of 63 tractates, each on a separate topic. One of the most accessible
is Aboth (The Fathers). The standard
English version of the Mishnah is that of Danby, 1933; there is a new
translation by Neusner, 1988.
The most important literature is the
Talmud, which exists in two versions:
the Jerusalem Talmud (published
around 400 ce) and the Babylonian Talmud (published around 600 ce; this is the more authoritative and
can be referred to simply as the Talmud).
The Talmud is largely a vast
commentary on the Mishnah, each
discussion starting with a quotation from the Mishnah, then adding many comments and discussion by various
rabbis. The standard English translation is published in 36 volumes (Epstein,
1935; see also Neusner, 1982–1993).
Other important literature includes
the Tosefta (meaning additions); it contains further thoughts
on the topics addressed in the Mishnah.
The Midrashim (meaning investigations) are a series of
commentaries on scripture; there are many such commentaries from various
periods of Jewish history. Finally, there are the Targumim, a series of Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scripture.
One difficulty in citations is that many of the tractates, and
even the whole works, can be called by different names. For example the
tractate on The Fathers can be cited as Avoth,
Avot, Aboth, Pirke Aboth, or Mishnah
Aboth. The Mishnah is also
spelled Mishna; the Jerusalem Talmud is also called the Palestinian Talmud, the Talmud of the Land of Israel, or simply Yerushalmi; the Babylonian Talmud is also called Bavli. Citations from the Mishnah
will often just use the name of the tractate (for example, Aboth), but may be cited as Mishnah Aboth or M. Aboth. Talmudic citations will included the name of the tractate
and some indicator of which Talmud it
is from, often just with an initial: TB or B for the Babylonian Talmud; Y for the Jerusalem
For academic journals, see Dawsey, 1988.
of important monographs may be
located by using the Index to Book
Reviews in Religion and the Book
Review Index. Full reviews of most recent scholarly books can be found in
the Review of Biblical Literature
(RBL), published by the Society of Biblical Literature. A print edition is
available annually by subscription; the on-line version can be accessed free at
guides are also available. Among the
best are J. A. Fitzmyer, 1990b; Danker, 1993; and France, 1979. Each is
annotated. Also useful is the minimally annotated listing of Scholer, 1973.
Stuart, 1990, evaluates commentaries from a conservative perspective. For a
guide to the classical world, see Bagnall, 1980. On Judaism, see Cutter and
Many specialized bibliographies are also available (see the following
bibliography for complete details):
Testament—Harrington, 1985b; Hurd, 1966; Langevin, 1985; Wagner, 1987
(see also Minor, 1992; Kiehl, 1988)
Literature—Gottcent, 1979; Minor, 1992; Powell and others, 1992
Rhetoric and the
Bible—Watson and Hauser 1994
Jesus and the
Gospels—Aune, 1980a; den Heyer, 1997; Evans, 1996; Garland, 1990;
Hultgren, 1988; Theissen, 1998; Kissinger, 1985; Longstaff and Thomas, 1988;
McKnight and Williams, 2000; White, 1988
Mark—Brooks, 1978; H. M.
Humphrey, 1981; Kee, 1978; Matera, 1987b
Mills, 1986; Segbroeck, 1989
John—Belle, 1988; Bogart,
1978; Koester, 1991
Sermon on the Mount and parables—Kissinger,
1975 and 1979
Borchert, 1985; Metzger, 1960
1 Peter—Casurella, 1996
North, and Price, 1998
Mor and Rappaport, 1982; Bourquin, 1990; Kraft and Nickelsburg, 1985
Dead Sea scrolls—Flint and
VanderKam, 1998–1999; Fitzmyer, 1990a; Murphy-OÕConnor and Charlesworth,
Philo—Runia, 2000; Hilgert, 1977
Pseudepigrapha—Charlesworth, 1981 and 1987
Social Science approaches—Horrell, 1999